In the flesh, Kristian Matsson may be a disappointment, but only to those looking for a world record holder. To everyone else the Swede is the consumate entertainer, letting loose his battered folk songs with the kind of passion that has separated him from his peers. Standing alone before the large crowd, he cherry-picks the finest cuts from his two albums and while it is the old songs that people seem to know the words to, new tracks like ‘You’re Going Back’ and ‘A Lion’s Heart’ more than hold their own.
Matsson made is Irish debut back in September and while the audience is bigger now, so is the performance. The Swede is a dynamic and powerful live perfomer and he holds the crowd in the palm of his hand. For every moment of hollering intensity there is one of pin-drop silence, with Matsson letting his songs almost fall apart before bringing them back in, stronger than ever. There is one awkward moment with the confused cover of Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’ falling quite flat but this more than made up for by the fantastic closing track ‘The King Of Spain’. The song is Matsson at his finest and it is a perfect way to end a set.
The duet with support band Hired Hands‘ singer during the encore was as sweet as could be, coming close to a Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris-style pairing. Rounding out the encore by himself again, Matsson leaves the stage smiling and the crowd ecstatic. The Tallest Man On Earth may be shorter than his nom de plÃºme would suggest but one thing is for sure; he is never a disappointment.
Photos by Damien McGlynn.